Jezebel’s Henry Stimler Reveals His Casino Royale-Themed Gala & Favorite Bond Girl

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The previews of The Great Gatsby have me totally psyched up. Leo as Gatsby is a big ZOWIE! for me. Baz will understand. I’ve read Gatsby a zillion times. I relish the eternal optimism of the lead, his romance, his insane quest. The parties in Fitzgerald’s great tome – which attract all types, and devolve into the impure-ist bedlam – are the model for my events. The rich hobnobbing with the dressed-up peasants, the debaucherous under-classes worked well for me. Nowadays, nightlife is more segregated. Slumming isn’t the norm for the well-heeled, as most opt for mingling within the same class. The top spots thrive on big bucks and exclusivity as opposed to inclusivity. There are exceptions to this rule: usually the fun night at the usually boring joint. The hoi polloi have been banished to Brooklyn and they thank you very much. 

At Capitale’s Casino Royale-themed gala January 26th with Henry Stimler (Jezebel) and Seth Greenberg (Capitale) at the helm, the price of admission is $125, separating the men from the moochers. Capitale,130 Bowery at Grand, is the perfect setting for such an affair. The building was designed by Stanford White who was murdered by a millionaire who learned of an affair between the architect and his model wife which predated the marriage. Stanford White designed the house where Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald attended those lavish parties that inspired him. Stanford also designed the Arch in Washington Square Park, The Players Club Mansion on Gramercy Park. The old post office on 31st and 8th and tons of other places. He was the epitome of the American renaissance of architecture. His murder at the hand of Harry Kendall Thaw was the "trial of the century.” Capitale is there to behold. Its beauty, timeless. Its ability to host great events, legendary. I think this is an event of Gatsby-esque proportions. J. Bond and J. Gatsby are great icons. 

This Saturday, the Casino Royale Gala will attract the best. There will be gaming tables and a live symphony orchestra and sexy singers who will perform every Bond song. There will be a late DJ set by Antonio de Angelis of Pacha Ibiza. Aston Martins will be parked outside. Shaken not stirred martinis will be  served by gold painted ladies. It’s a costume party and attendees are encouraged to come as their favorite Bond character. They have provided this link for all info and costume concepts. A full 20 percent of ticket sales will go to the Tunnel to the Towers Foundation in support of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. A VIP table for five people goes for $2,000, for 10 people $4,000. There is a $50 ticket after 12:30p.m. as well. Their last event, “Midnight in Paris,” was all the rage and this looks like tons of fun.

I asked Henry Stimler a few questions.

What will guests see when they attend?
We are going to create a world of all things Bond, from being greeted by Miss Moneypenny, to tarot card readers, gold-painted ladies, Bond ice sculptures, full band, different singers performing all 22 Bond-themed songs, and of course a casino with amazing prizes.

What will they hear?
Well, the band will play during the gambling etc., then for the after party we are flying in Italian DJ Antonio De Angelis with DJ V to spin from 1am to 4am.

The reason for the Bond theme: is it just because it’s plain sexy?
It’s more than sexy, it’s iconic. I love Bond, and think everyone has that fantasy, the opening scene of Dr. No sitting at the table, lighting a smoke, and saying that immortal line, “Well, here you can embrace it, grab your best tux, strap on a Walter PPK (fake on please), and pull off your best ‘Bond, James Bond’ to a beautiful women, and the place will be full of beautiful Bond girls.

Why January 26th?
It’s my birthday on the 28th, so I kinda rolled with that weekend.

What have you learned from your previous event, Midnight in Paris?
Midnight in Paris was a smashing success. Everywhere people went that night, they ran into flapper girls. I ended up at 6am in a top hat and tails and the door guy asking me "what the hell’s with all the 1920s outfits tonight?” New Yorkers embrace themed parties it seems. We put on a big production –  but this one is bigger.

It’s you, Seth Greenberg, and who else?
We always have a team of people, such as Yana Tara, Michael Heller, Gary Quirk, Vito, Matt Esstes, and Vanessa Gil, but it’s just me and Seth for promotion.

Your restaurant Jezebel is providing "bites." Tell me about bites and, while you’re here, Jezebel. Who goes there? Has the kosher cuisine crossed over, and been embraced by non-Jewish patrons?
Jezebel has been a trip. We are seven months in and it’s going great. I think it’s really been embraced by people. You get such a huge mix of people, it really is the melting pot that is NYC. On any given night, you can have your table of 5 Chabad dudes sitting next to two football players with their girlfriends, next to a table of models, then a rabbi and his wife on a date, next to some huge financiers next to Russell Simmons. We have a great new chef, Chris Mitchell, formerly of The Breslin. He is just great.

For Bond, we are going to do a mix of Goldfinger food and Bond-inspired snacks. It’s gonna be very cool and super delicious.

Ok, ok, ok, who’s your favorite Bond? Who’s your favorite Bond villain and your favorite Bond girl?
Sean Connery, hands down, for favorite Bond, the girl in The Spy Who Loved Me, and Goldfinger as my fav Bond villain: "I don’t expect you to talk, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die." Classic stuff.

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Artist Brian Batt Talks ‘Gossip Girl’

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If you haven’t yet heard of artist Brian Batt, you’ll be getting a glimpse soon, especially if you tune into Gossip Girl. We know that not everyone’s smitten for Upper East Side scheming, but this impressive painter makes a cameo in tonight’s episode, “Portrait of a Lady Alexander.” Indeed, the 33-year-old acting neophyte even delivers some lines, in the presence of Chuck and Blair, no less. Guilty pleasure, meet aesthetic skill.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Batt made his way to Manhattan roughly five years ago. At the time, he was working for a Long Island-based band merchandising company, designing t-shirts and other fan-focused products. But, much as he loved it, in 2008 Batt threw in towel, determined to work for himself and bent on painting fulltime.

And now, that’s just what he does. Day in and day out, he collides with the canvas in his Lower East Side two-bedroom walk-up, though soon he’ll be relocating to Dumbo. We can appreciate his need for more space. With two pit bulls, Lily and Zoe, bounding about (not to mention fixating on our feet) and countless large-scale works scattered throughout the apartment, perched precariously against walls and otherwise making it a little difficult to walk without worry, he’s due for—and deserving of—a real estate upgrade.

Batt’s style has certainly evolved over the years, and currently it’s all about gridding and dots. Some depictions we encountered during our visit were of Russell Simmons, Frida Kahlo, and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Just blocks and dots of color making for a magnificent and entirely fresh perspective. No Lichtenstein or Seurat to be seen here.

Our personal favorite Batt original would have to be Venus, which features a gorgeous girl (who looks a lot like Lana Del Rey). She sports a letterman jacket and oversized sunglasses, her long locks billowing in the wind before a body of water. The closer you stand, the more out of focus it is. But back up a bit and the beauty comes together, well, beautifully. We really dig the illusion, not to mention the evident meticulousness. And we aren’t alone. Batt counts among his collectors the likes of Reese Witherspoon and John Krasinski, amid myriad more. Though he can command up to $25,000 per piece, prints are available on his site, signed and embossed, for only $90.

Jolly and totally down to talk shop, Batt opened up to us about his craft, breaking into television (if only once…so far), and his relationship with L.A. Spoiler alert: New York City wins.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Have you always been into art, even as a kid?
I was always drawing. And, I went to college for illustration at Hartford Art School in Connecticut. Also, my dad was an artist, too.

That’s awesome. Who is your favorite artist, apart from pops of course?
My primary influence is Chuck Close. Chuck Close is the man.

I can see that, for sure. You have a couple reminiscent, albeit distinct, aesthetics. What would you call them?
Pixilated paintings and dot style[, respectively]. [The former] is influenced by the digital era. The reference is like a bitmap. [The latter is] like look[ing] at a newspaper [if] you zoom way in; it’s all dots. It’s influenced by print.

What does this endeavor mean to you?
I’m just so motivated to be painting every day, as much as possible. Definitely more motivated now than ever before. I spend a lot of time; I’m working at least twelve hours a day, seven days a week. There’s so much I want to do, so much I’m set up to do right now. Commissions and pieces I’m compelled to do. I’m the only one here to do it, too. I don’t have assistants or anything, so I just have to be as productive as I can. I work really hard.

It shows. How do you create these pieces? Like, where do you source the initial images?
This [Russell Simmons image] is taken from a photo on the internet, which is something I’m trying to avoid. I want them to be original. Like, with Gossip Girl, I couldn’t show this because I didn’t take this photo, you know?

It’s tricky. So, how did you initially get involved with Gossip Girl?
The head writer bought two of my paintings at a show I had in L.A. They wanted [to feature] a New York artist and were trying to write me into the script. They wanted me to play myself for authenticity. When they first told me, I really [didn’t] expect it to happen. [After some back and forth,] they invite[d] me to do a cameo on the show.

Were you stoked?
I was very interested.

Then what?
They explained what the scene was going to be; Chuck and Blair come to my studio to talk about a painting. They wanted me to read in front of the camera. That was the final test. I was super nervous, because I’d never done that sort of thing. They just wanted me to be myself.

Did Gossip Girl film here?
They wanted to. Because of the walk-up, it was an issue. So, they came, picked up, like, 18 of my paintings, and recreated my studio out on Long Island. It was cool to see it all recreated.

I bet. So, what was the end result?
It was amazing. The experience was great. They made me feel really comfortable and were really enthusiastic about the work. It was so surreal. It should be great exposure.

Beyond the head writer of Gossip Girl, who else invests in your work?
Probably the most famous person who’s bought work from me is Reese Witherspoon. I did one for John Krasinski a couple years ago, too. It was commissioned by a friend of his. He loves JFK…

Are you bent on depicting famous faces or are you also into lesser-known subjects?
It’s both. I don’t feel as comfortable submitting pieces where I didn’t take the photograph.

And that largely ties back to portraying folks you know or have easier access to than the celebrity (or deceased) set. Tell me about your Frida Kahlo painting.
I think it’s important [to represent] the power of women. There’s not as many female artists. There’s not as much of a presence of female artists. That’s what inspired me. I like subjects who are game changers, who overcome adversity, who stand up for something. To me, Frida totally represents that.

Absolutely.
It’s also about doing more obscure icons. People I think are amazing but don’t necessarily get the recognition of, like, Bob Marley, who’s on posters everywhere. [For example,] this is Karen O. from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I love Karen O.

Does anyone ever sit for a portrait?
Used to. But now I take a photograph because I don’t want to make someone wait so long.

Speaking of waiting, what’s your waiting list like?
A year. Some are priority. Some people are anxious to get something; others are, like, Whenever. I’m happy to have a bunch of commissions lined up.

It must be awesome to be an artist who isn’t starving.
It’s the best. I’m starting to pick up some momentum now.

Yes, you may even make it to Art Basel this year. Tell me more about the piece you anticipate showcasing there?
I’ve probably put in 1,000 hours so far. It’s tedious. I really hope they take it.

For sure. So, does New York inform your art? This area?
It’s always inspiring to walk around the neighborhood. I’m lucky I have dogs. Gets me out of the apartment.

But soon you’ll be abandoning the Lower East Side for Dumbo. Are you ready to say goodbye to Manhattan?
I’m freaking out. I’m majorly freaking out.

I would be, too. Lastly, your manager’s based in L.A. Can you describe your relationship with the West Coast?
There’s so many opportunities for artists out there now. It’s really refreshing to have New York artists [going] to L.A. The general population in Los Angeles is all about it. There’s so much to take advantage of. It’s really positive and beneficial to be involved in some way. It’s also nice to recharge a little bit, too. I love going back and forth, absorbing what both places have to offer. I don’t think I could live there full-time, though. New York is just so amazing.

Frank Ocean Comes Out, Reveals Falling in Love With a Man

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Happy Birthday, America! Usually I would be offline today, as it is Independence Day and I can live independently without the stupid old internet, but I happened to log on and see some pretty important and nutty news: last night, rising hip-hop star and Odd Future member Frank Ocean came out via his Tumblr, revealing the story about the first time he fell in love with a man. 

In a screenshot of a text file called "thank you’s," presumably intended to be included in the liner notes of his upcoming album, Channel Orange (to be released July 17), Ocean recounts the events from four years ago. Here are some highlights below:

4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence … until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless…

I sat there and told my friend how I felt. I wept as the words left my mouth. I grieved for them, knowing I could never take them back for myself. He patted my back. He said kind things. He did his best, but he wouldn’t admit the same. He had to go back inside soon. It was late and his girlfriend was waiting for him upstairs. He wouldn’t tell me the truth about his feelings for me for another 3 years. I felt like I’d only imagined reciprocity for years. Now imagine being thrown from a cliff. No, I wasn’t on a cliff, I was still in my car telling myself it was gonna be fine and to take deep breaths. I took the breaths and carried on. I kept up a peculiar friendship with him because I couldn’t imagine keeping up my life without him. I struggled to master myself and my emotions. I wasn’t always successful.

Ocean goes on to thank those around him who have given him strength and encouragement, including friends, family, and the man who sparked those emotions: 

Before writing this I’d told some people my story. I’m sure these people kept me alive, kept me save … sincerely, these are the folks I wanna thank from the floor of my heart. Everyone of you knows who you are … great humans, probably angels. I don’t know what happens now, and that’s alrite. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore. There’s probably some small shit still, but you know what I mean. I was never alone, as much as I felt like it … as much as I still do sometimes. I never was. I don’t think I ever could be. Thanks. To my first love. I’m grateful for you. Grateful that even though it wasn’t what I hoped for and even though it was never enough, it was. Some things never are … and we were. I won’t forget you. I won’t forget the summer. I’ll remember who I was when I met you.

It’s a big week for coming-out stories, huh! While many were not surprised by Anderson Cooper’s announcement on Monday, Ocean’s coming out might be legitimately surprising to many people. And with the stigma in the hip-hop community still so large, preventing many other closeted members of the industry to keep their personal lives hidden, I have to applaud Ocean’s courage, especially so early in his career (he hasn’t even released a proper album yet!). Time will tell how this news will affect his career, although Ocean’s already strong collaborations with Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Kanye West seem like he has a high-profile support system behind him that will help him find his success as a solo artist.

Gakwer’s Louis Peitzman (who is also a BlackBook contributor) raises the appropriate questions about Ocean’s coming out and its affect on his career. He points to country singer Chely Wright’s comments, revealing how her coming out in 2010 had a negative impact on her record sales. But perhaps more encouragingly is the statement from hip-hop honcho Russell Simmons, who wrote on his blog a short reaction to Ocean’s coming out

Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we?

I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean. Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear. These types of secrets should not matter anymore, but we know they do, and because of that I decided to write this short statement of support for one of the greatest new artists we have.

His gifts are undeniable. His talent, enormous. His bravery, incredible. His actions this morning will uplift our consciousness and allow us to become better people. Every single one of us is born with peace and tranquility in our heart. Frank just found his.

Frank, we thank you. We support you. We love you.

That’s an incredibly promising start! Let’s sincerely hope this does change the game in some way, that it will encourage more tolerance in the community and also among hip-hop fans at large. I’ve already seen people on Twitter say that this is a bigger deal than Anderson Cooper’s coming out; that remains to be seen. But what I can admit is that Frank Ocean has set himself up to be a pretty big role model for a large group within a community that has long been silenced. I couldn’t feel more proud on Independence Day than I do right now. 

Morning Links: Russell Simmons Petitions For New State Drink, Gwyneth’s Generous Baby Gift

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● Practicing vegan Russell Simmons has petitioned New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to switch the state beverage from milk to something healthier and more ethical, like soy milk. [Huff Post]

● Charlie of "Charlie Bit My Finger" fame made some $158,000 off his viral video. What has your cute kid done? [NYT]

● Adam Sandler’s animated vampire flick, Hotel Transylvania, has traded a Miley Cyrus — who says, "I really wanna work on my music this year! That’s all :)” — for a Selena Gomez. See what they did there? [E!]

● Gwyneth Paltrow gifted Jay-Z and Beyoncé with a $979 stroller, in which they can walk baby Blue around the house until she is ready for her grand debut. [Us]

● The Situation "really ripped both Snooki and JWoww a new one" after they suggested in an interview that he might have gay tendencies, like "his posture and the way he holds his cigarettes." [SunTimes]

● Lest you be tempted to let your YA novels touch, Hunger Games producers were deliberate in not casting anyone from Twilight. [Us]

● Kristen Cavallari wants you to see her still just teeny-tiny baby bump. [Us]

Morning Links: Russell Simmons Forges On in His Battle With Lowes; Diddy & Cameron Diaz an Item?

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● Russell Simmons has thrown money into his fight with Lowe’s, who pulled ads from TLC’s new series All-American Muslim citing  "concerned" and "alienated" viewers, by buying out the show’s remaining ad time next week. "The show is now sold out! keep your money @lowes and we will keep ours," he tweeted. [Huff Post]

Star Trek actor George Takei is asking Trek and Star Wars fans to find "star peace," align together against the true evil (or, as he makes it sound, truly boring), Twilight. [NME]

● Jessica Simpson’s baby sent "big crocodile tears" streaming down her face when it "did a flip or something." [People]

● Britney Spears keeps up with Britney Spears news much like we all do by reading OK! Magazine at the airport! [TMZ]

● Their reps claim they are "just friends," but Diddy and Cameron Diaz were caught kissing and "being very affectionate" in the club the other night. Is love a-blooming? [Page Six]

● Gucci Mane is out of jail again, and he’s feeling great. “It was a time for me to sit back and just refocus the whole way I do things, man,” he told XXL, adding that, "This is the last time I think I’ll ever be in jail." [XXL]

Russell Simmons & More Slam Lowe’s for Pulling Ads from Muslim Show

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The fight is on against Lowe’s.  Sparks are flying after the hardware giant pulled its ads from TLC’s All-American Muslim reality show that features, like the title suggest, all-American Muslims. Heading up the fight for those of all religions to appear on the same channel as sister wives, hoarders, and toddlers with tiaras is Russell Simmons who is calling on everyone to act.

A Lowe’s spokesperson said they pulled the ad “after hearing the concerns we received through emails, calls, through social media and in news reports," and that it was not their “intent to alienate anyone.”

Except of course, they did. 

 “This can’t happen in America; [Lowe’s] needs to fix this immediately,” Simmons told EW. “They can’t get away with that, it’s ridiculous. There are American principals at stake here. I can’t imagine the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the National Urban League, or any organization that fights for their own rights will allow this to happen to any other group because they know they’re next.”

He has also threatened to organize a boycott, but is giving them a chance. “I don’t want to take my time and start a boycott — don’t make me do that.”

California state senator Ted W. Lieu is also stepping into the fight saying, “I call on Lowe’s to rescind its action and apologize to Americans who are Muslim. If Lowe’s continues its religious bigotry, I will encourage boycotts of Lowe’s and look into legislative remedies.”

It’s your move Lowe’s.

Morning Links: Kim Kardashian Dons a Burqa in Dubai, Bieber Shuts Down Buenos Aires

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● The second episode of workplace comedy web series Summer Fridays is live. [Summer Fridays] ● Yesterday, via twitter, Russell Simmons offered to pay for Mayor Bloomberg’s mandated cleaning of Zuccotti Park so long as Occupy Wall Street protesters would be allowed to remain. Lucky for Russ, the protesters did a good enough job tidying up that the cleaning was called off. [Gawker] ● Lindsay Lohan was spotted on the red carpet looking a little worse for the wear, her teeth yellowed and nail polish streaks all over her hands. Is it just the coffee, or is there something you want to talk about, LiLo? [DailyMail]

● Even wearing her new Burqa, Kim Kardashian drew crowds of fans in a Dubai marketplace. [E!] ● Scarlett Johansson’s hacker says he was so addicted to spying that he was “was almost relieved when they came in and took the computers inside.” [NYDN] ● For all his fame, Drake insists that bringing a girl home for Passover dinner was still the most “intense” thing he’s ever done; and that, no, that girl wasn’t Nicki — although his mother would have liked it if she were. [Elle] ● Justin Bieber’s arrival in Argentina is said to have drawn more screaming fans than Evita’s famed balcony appearance. The crowd was so big that, according to Page Six‘s source, “The hotel had to call the police to bring barricades and close off the entire neighborhood.” [Page Six]

Kanye West Wears Gold Chains and Grill to Occupy Wall Street

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Oh, Yeezy. The rapper showed up to Occupy Wall Street this afternoon inappropriately dressed for political and economic protests.

Presumably interested to see how the other 99% lives, West took a quick stroll with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons through Zuccotti Park around 3:45 this afternoon. He didn’t stay long; after he was mobbed by the crowd in the park, he quickly left in a car. Obviously it was quite a spectacle, even if he’s not the first celebrity to drop by the demonstrations. But he may be the first to show off so much bling–it was quite a move to come by draped in gold chains, flash a brief smile with a gold grill, and show off a Givenchy flannel shirt.

Or maybe he was just making an anti-bank statement? Perhaps all of West’s monies are secured in gold bling. Whatever the case, people were not too thrilled with the notorious egocentric’s presence among the 99%.

The Victoria Secret Fashion Show and P.Diddy’s 40th as Gleaned From Russell Simmons’s Tw

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We first learn of the nightly whereabouts of music’s worst dressed impresario Russell Simmons at 6pm last night from the front row of the Victoria Secret Fashion Show. “Maybe I should take pics?” would end up being the underquestion of the evening as Simmons provides us with a cascade of twitpics featuring the most beautiful and batshit insane women in the world. Gloria Steinem once said that there are two kinds of people in this world, those who say that there are two kinds of people in this world and those who do not. I’ve always dug that maxim sumtin’ awful, but I’m going to forget I ever heard that and say that there are two kinds of people in this world, those who know the names of models and those who do not. I fall into the latter camp, but who cares. MODELS! BANGS! WILL.I.AM!

After going around the room with the likes of Jessica White, Doug Morris and Richard Branson (who “looks verrrrry excited”) Simmons informs us how happy and fine and cool people are by tacking on the word “ass.” His intern is “happy ass” as he poses in a scarf with Lily Alderson, Will.I.Am is a “cool ass” and Fergie is so “fine ass” that Simmons is briefly upset that he gots a girl and she’s married. At 11pm we’re off to the birthday party of the most quotable man in the entire world: P.Diddy. As The Macaroni With The Cheese once told me “work yo handsome.” “If you in a suit,” he continued, “if you in jeans, doesn’t matter, work…yo…handsome, dog.” Work it I do, puff. I work it everyday. It also looks as if Simmons did just that as well with my ideal threesome partners, whip-fine Marissa Miller and sexy sheep-keeping stallion Martha Stewart. At about 1am the fifty three year old Godfather of Hip Hop called it a night: “What a night. Funny I took all those pics and there was plastic in phone up till puffs party :-).” Hilarious.